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Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist Resources (Alum): Individuals

Most historical research projects will involve researching the lives of individuals. This page provides a guide to finding accurate and useful information on individual Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists, from a cursory to an in-depth level. This page is meant to model the research process, with the user starting at the top of the page and working their way down as they find more information about their research subject. This guide includes links to digital, print, and archival resources.

Reference Sources

Reference material are secondary sources that are often organized around entries (such as a dictionary or encyclopedia) and provide concise introductory information on a person or topic.

When researching Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists, the linked digital reference material below are often the best place to start your inquiry. Resources such as Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography provide not only an excellent introduction to the basic outline's a person's life, but also reference to primary and secondary sources you may want to explore.

While not as accessible and easily updated as digital reference resources, there are specialized print reference resources we highly recommend. If the individual you are researching is a theologian, Gary Dorrien's The Making of American Liberal Theology is a very useful resource. 

Organized by region, by congregation, and by minister, Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist directories and yearbooks provide extensive information about congregation size and growth. It also contains information about the American Unitarian Association, the Universalist Church of America, and the Unitarian Universalist Association. 

Print

The Wiggin Library at Meadville Lombard holds a complete set of the Unitarian print directories, a near complete set of the Universalist directories, and a complete set of Unitarian Universalist directories. To access print copies of these materials at Meadville Lombard, email library@meadville.edu. 

Digital

Andover-Harvard Theological Library had digitized historical Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist yearbooks and directories. Andover-Harvard Digitized Yearbooks and Handbooks

Current Directory 

The UUA currently maintains a digital directory that can be found here: Unitarian Universalist Association Directory  

Genealogy sources can be useful resources to establish birth dates, death dates, and basic family information for your subject. 

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are scholarly materials, such as academic monographs (book length academic writing on a single subject) and articles in academic journals. Secondary sources are generally not written by individuals who participated in the events being analyzed. In history and the humanities, academic monographs are the most common way to publish sustained, in-depth scholarship and generally address a subject at a deeper level than reference material. 

When researching individuals and organizations, we suggest to expand your scope beyond books explicitly on your subject or topic to include scholarly books that are thematically or chronologically and related to the individual or organization you are researching. Very often, a keyword search in a library catalog will discover books where your research subject is a major figure, but not the subject of a book.

Academic articles are another useful secondary source. In history and the humanities, academic articles contain focused scholarship smaller in scope than an academic monograph. For social scientific disciplines, such as sociology, anthropology, and religious studies, academic articles are often the primary method to publish scholarship. 

For current Meadville Lombard students, we provide access to two specialized academic journal databases: Atla Religion Database with AtlaSerials and JSTOR- Religion in Theology. Much like when searching for books in a library catalog, we suggest expanding your scope to include keywords thematically or chronologically and related to your subject. 

The Journal UU History seeks to preserve and celebrate original scholarship that relates to any aspect of the history of the Unitarian Universalist religious traditions, or related liberal religion. Although our emphasis is on American history since the mid-eighteenth century, we welcome work related to any place and period (for example, Reformation Europe).

Journal Overview and Table of Contents: Journal of UU History

To access articles from the Journal of UU History, email us at library@meadville.edu

While increasingly dated, this is an authoritative bibliography created by Conrad Wright and is still quite useful to discover pertinent academic monographs and articles. 

Bibliography of Unitarian, Universalist and Unitarian Universalist Resources, 1946-1995

Published Primary Sources

Primary resources are resources created by your individual or contemporaneous to your the individual you are researching. Published primary resources often include memoirs and autobiographies. If the subject you are researching was an author, this can also included books, academic articles, news articles, and pamphlets. Even if your subject did not publish, writers contemporary to them could have written about your subject in their work. Much like with published academic secondary, specialized theological libraries are the best location to discover published primary sources by Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists. 

If the individual you are researching lived in the 19th or early 20th century, there is a high likelihood that much of their published material has been digitized by Google Books and/or Haiti Trust. Because these books are completely digitized, Google Books and Haiti Trust searches you to easily perform keyword searches that allow you to find references to specific individuals, events, and themes within published books.

If your subject was an author who wrote for periodicals and newspapers or was a public figure who was written about, periodicals and newspapers can be a useful resource. 

Print

The Meadville Lombard Archives and Special Collections holds an extensive print collection of historical periodicals from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries that document Unitarianism, Universalism, Humanism/Free Thinkers, Spiritualism, and liberal religion more broadly.

To see the list of our historical periodical holdings, click Print Historical Journals and Periodicals held by Meadville Lombard

To access any of the historical journals and periodicals from our print collection, email archives@meadville.edu.

Digital

Meadville Lombard Library and Archives curates access to a variety of online newspaper and periodical databases. To start browsing these resources, click Historical Periodicals

The Andover-Harvard Theological Library curates a lists of digitized Unitarian, Universalist, Unitarian Universalist, and liberal religious journals in the public domain, click Liberal Religious journals in the Public Domain to access these resources. 

Pamphlets were a common means of distributing sermons, religions tracts, and short theological works up to the early 20th century. The resource below are a good resource if your subject was an author during that time. 

Print

Meadville Lombard holds an extensive and unique collection of over 10,000 nineteenth and early twentieth century Unitarian and Universalist  pamphlets. If you believe your individual would have written pamphlets during this time, email us at library@meadville.edu and we can check!

Digital

Archival Resources

Archives contain primary, unpublished resources. They can be generated by an individual (often called "Personal Papers" or "Family Papers" or by an organization (often called "Records"). Archival documents form the backbone of most historical scholarship and are what secondary sources rely upon. 

When researching individual Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists, personal papers are often the most beneficial archival collection type. Personal papers will often contain personal correspondence, printed ephemera, photographs, and writing, such as sermons, speeches, or drafts of material that became published. In addition to personal papers, if your individual was involved with specific organizations, the records of those organizations will be useful as well. If the individual you are researching was a religious professional, look at our Researching Congregations page

There are a few specific archival collections that are invaluable when researching Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists individuals. While not personal papers, the collections below contain files on specific Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists. 

Meadville Lombard Library and Archives

To inquire if we have files on your research subject in any of the Meadville Lombard collections below, email us at archives@meadville.edu. We can work with you to schedule an in person appointment or, in some cases, scan pertinent material and email it to you. 

Andover-Harvard

While limited due to copyright and the high cost of digitization, there are a growing number of digitized online resources that document Unitarianism, Universalism, and Unitarian Universalism. Benefits of digital archives include granular keyword searching, item level descriptions, and ease of use. 

Ask an Archivist

If you have any questions about the Meadville Lombard Archives and Special Collections, just ask!

We can help with...

  • Scheduling an archive visit
  • Accessing archival materials
  • Using our digital archive tools
  • Answering reference questions
  • Scanning selections of documents
  • Donating archival material to Meadville Lombard
  • Creating archives at your local congregation

Citation Guide

New to archival research?

Are you researching Meadville Lombard alums?

The Meadville Lombard Archives and Special Collections contains not only personal papers of many alums, but other collections that document alums experiences at Meadville Lombard and their carriers and lives after graduation.

To inquire if we have files on your research subject in any of the Meadville Lombard collections below, email us at archives@meadville.edu. We can work with you to schedule an in person appointment or, in some cases, scan pertinent material and email it to you. 

Physical Records

Digital Records

Meadville Lombard Wiggin Library
180 N. Wabash Ave.
Suite 625 
Chicago, IL 60601


Library and Archives Phone: 312-546-6488        Library Email: library@meadville.edu        Archives Email: archives@meadville.edu